Legislators set to vote on transportation boardBy Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Legislators who vote on more than half of the seats on the State Transportation Board have the opportunity to dramatically change the direction of road-building policy in the state Department of Transportation.
It's unusual for so many seats to come up for election at once since the members serve staggered, 5-year terms. But the outcome may spell few upsets, according to observers.
Eight of the 14 seats on the board will be voted on in elections held Wednesday and Thursday and over two days next week. Lawmakers who represent any part of the congressional districts will meet for one district at a time and to vote by secret ballot.
Three seats are vacant. The 14th was newly created because population growth earned Georgia an added congressional district. The 6th district seat is vacant because board member Brandon Beach resigned after winning a special election to the state Senate last month. As a senator, he'll get to vote on his successor.
The District 1 seat is also vacant because the new boundaries don't include the homes of any current board members. Jay Shaw of Lakeland had represented the 1st, but he was drawn into the 8th with fellow board member Jim Cole of Macon. But since Cole resigned Friday, Shaw remains in office.
Running in District 1's Wednesday voting are ex-Rep. Ann Purcell of Rincon and retired Waycross engineer Burton Carter.
Purcell retired from the House of Representatives last year having risen to become chairwoman of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee. She already has support from former colleagues from around the Savannah area where she lives.
"Extremely hard worker. Full of energy. Depth of knowledge is unsurpassed. Politically savvy," wrote Rep. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, in a text message. "... And she rides a Harley!"
She'll face Carter who started with the DOT in 1951, rising from chainman to area engineer before joining a couple of private companies.
He's being nominated by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, who points to his experience and knowledge about both transportation and the department's inner workings.
"Mr. Carter is competent, and he is great with people in addition to being an honorable man that is well respected in Waycross-Ware County (and surrounding area)," Spencer said. "Mr. Carter's outstanding character, professionalism and years of service to the state will go a long way in restoring trust and confidence in the Department of Transportation."
Another East Georgia seat comes up for election next week when incumbent Bobby Parham, a Milledgeville pharmacist who spent 34-years in the state House, faces a challenge from Jamie Boswell, who owns an Athens real-estate and insurance business.
Many of the board members are former legislators. Although it's a volunteer post, lawmakers tend to prefer dealing with their one-time colleagues when they want to request road paving or a stop light for their constituents.